Elvis Festival closes with rousing gospel show

TUPELO – The Tupelo Elvis Presley Festival closed Sunday with a church full of people on their feet.
Elvis tribute artist Travis LeDoyt, The Landmarks and The Foyer Boyz all gave rousing performances full of classic gospel songs and a few send-ups to the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
The Foyer Boyz, an a cappella gospel group from Tupelo, kicked the show at the First United Methodist church in Tupelo off with songs like “The Gospel Plow,” “How Great Thou Art” and “Here is My Heart.”
“How many of you have heard Elvis do ‘Peace in the Valley?’ Well, that’s not going to sound like this,” said The Foyer Boyz singer Brent Roberson, before the group sang their version of the classic song. Roberson drew even more chuckles after the group’s performance by throwing in an Elvis-style “Thank you, thank you very much.”
The Landmarks wowed the crowd with songs like “Standing in the Shadows,” “Statue of Liberty” and “We Shall See Heaven Someday.”
“It’s great for The Landmarks to be here,” singer Larry Kirk said. “This was the cornerstone of (Elvis’) musical style. We’re certainly glad to be here representing that today.”
The audience cheered for the gospel groups, but tribute artist Travis LeDoyt received a standing ovation when he entered the stage.
The Massachusetts-based singer said he was excited to perform at the show Sunday.
“I don’t get to do gospel shows too often,” he said before performing Elvis’ gospel tune “He Knows Just What I Need.”
LeDoyt’s selections included “If We Never Meet Again,” “Peace in the Valley,” “Joshua Fit the Battle” and “It’s No Secret,” which LeDoyt said was one of his favorites.
He charmed the crowd by wandering out into the audience, smiling for cameras and shaking hands.
This is LeDoyt’s last year performing as a tribute artist; his last show as Elvis will be in spring 2010 and afterward he’ll pursue his own music career. When he announced his career change, the audience yelled, “No!”
“I’ve been doing a lot of (song) writing,” he said. “I’d like to try it. I hope you’ll give it a shot. I hope you’ll like it. I’d like to thank you for supporting me over the years.”
Two of LeDoyt’s biggest fans are Eugene and Carol Parks of Piggott, Ark. The couple follow LeDoyt’s performances across the country.
“We have been following him for years,” Carol said. “When he’s in Tupelo, we’re in Tupelo.”
The couple also saw LeDoyt’s concert at The Lyric Friday night.
“He’s so talented,” she said, and her husband agreed: “It was a really good show.”
It was the first Tupelo Elvis Presley Festival for Riki and Richard Odom of Gulfport. The pair took in the Elvis Tribute Artist Competition as well as Sunday’s gospel show.
“Oh, it’s been awesome,” said Riki, who sported an Elvis T-shirt and purse.
What impressed the couple most was the hospitality they were shown in Tupelo.
“The hospitality has been overwhelming,” Riki said. “I’d like to bottle it up and take it back home.”

Contact Sheena Barnett at (662) 678-1580 or sheena.barnett@djournal.com.

Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal